Story of a Dauno Sub-Apennine Family-Run Farm
|Azienda Agricola Masseriola and its Products|
The 'di Loreto' family roots are in the Abruzzo region of Italy, but they have had commercial relations in the Apulia region since 1655. In fact, when the cold in the Abruzzo mountain was unbearable, ancestor Biase di Loreto moved his flock of sheep into the 'provincia di Capitanata', or the current Foggia province, in the Apulia region, that at that time was a huge grazing plain.
At the time 'Capitanata' pasture fields belonged to the Kingdom of Naples, whose administration used to branch out and rent to various families of shepherds from Abruzzo for winter use. When the Kingdom of Naples created the 'legge dell'affrancazione' '('enfranchisement law') in 1880, and offered the shepherds who were renting it the opportunity to purchase the land, the di Loreto family bought several parcels that they used for generations as pasture for their roughly 5,000 sheep.
Unfortunately, in September 1943, during the WWII conflict, when the allied US and British armies that had landed in Sicily were moving up north fighting the retreating Nazis, the di Loreto flock remained isolated high in the mountains of Abruzzo, where they were decimated by the cold and the wolves. When Abruzzo was finally liberated in June 1944, of the huge herd of the di Loreto family only 35 sheep were found alive!
In the following years, the vast pasture plains were transformed into agricultural fields, as they were no longer needed as grazing land for such a small flock. The family planted mostly wheat, barley, oats and cotton. At the same time, part of the farm land was appropriated with the 'Riforma Fondiaria' ('Agrarian Reform') law.
The di Loreto family started again raising sheep and cows, and maintained the business till the 1990s, however it was in a much smaller fashion than in the past.
At the beginning of the 1950s, Biagio di Loreto, father of the current manager, planted about 30 hectares (about 74 acres) of olive trees of the 'coratina' variety in two of the family farms, thus planting the seeds of the current oil business.
At the beginning, the olive harvest was sold 'as is' on the trees. At the beginning of the 1980s, however, Stefano di Loreto took over the management of the two olive groves and started to produce the olive oil in house, selling the product in bulk to a local cooperative. In 1996, Stefano decided to transform the cultivation of the olives, adopting strictly organic methods.